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NPR has the new video for “Irene” from Courtney Marie Andrews, announcing special re-issue of “Honest Life”

Courtney Marie Andrews has released a video for “Irene” off of her breakout record Honest Life today over on NPR. The song is an anthem for the timid, a beautiful hymn to bolster confidence and believe in your potential. Andrews sums it up perfectly saying “Irene is the little voice inside most of us, that says we aren’t good enough, or strong enough. It’s about shutting that voice off, while also accepting life’s inevitable struggles. It’s about coming to terms with you are, and believing in that person. Irene was written for a friend who was going through a confusing time, but like some songs do, over time it turned into a song about not only myself, but all of the women that I love. Irene is amazing, she just doesn’t know it yet.”
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Mama Bird Recording Co. & Fat Possum Records are pleased to announce the release of an exclusive coke-bottle green vinyl of Honest Life to independent record stores. This version will include a bonus 7″ of unreleased recordings.  The bundle is limited to 400 copies and can be purchased on September 15, 2017.

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News from Hearth PR

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The crew over here at Hearth is really excited about everything happening over the coming months so wanted to get you a slew of the albums we’re working from now till October! If you’d like any more info, downloads or other materials, on any of these releases please do let me know!
 

Charlie Whitten‘s new EP, Playwright, is coming out August 25th. The whole thing is phenomenal, a quick 4-song EP showcasing a moment in time for the young songwriter. The writing on each of these tracks is wonderful and points to Whitten’s budding brilliance but the up-tempo, jaunty, pining of “Since She’s Gone”, with it’s entwining of heart-break, acceptance and humility is really impressive.

We’ve got an EP coming from Minneapolis-based Humbird coming August 25th, beautiful indie folk settings on this one that tap into the stark forests of the Midwest and the cold North

Billy Strings new psychedelic americana-meets-thrash-bluegrass album is wild (he’s an explosive guitarist!) with some really trippy stuff going on, it drops September 22nd 

The radio wing of HearthPR will be working an amazing album September 8th from Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton. Both were founding members of the Be Good Tanyas (one of our most favorite bands) and this new album is a kind of return to roots for them. It’s also the first time they’ve collaborated together again in a good number of years. If you want a copy for press, we can refer you to their press publicist, otherwise our radio buddies will be getting hard copies shortly!

Lenore.‘s first single has been lauded by Uproxx who said it “features their entwining harmonies — which is the most arresting part of their sound — along with handclaps, a clever guitar lick, and low, slow bass line holding it all together. The track is deceptively simple, building into intricacies as it unfolds, and the legendary Eric Bachmann (Archers of Loaf and Crooked Fingers) takes over lead vocal duties.”

They’ve brought together an all-star cast from Eric Bachmann on the first single to Neko Case’s Paul Rigby and Dan Hunt and Death Cab For Cutie’s Dave Depper to fill out their witchy folk pop self-titled debut, due out September 15th.

Anna Tivel is a Portland-based songwriter who I watched three people breakdown sobbing at her show the other night. She’s one of those songwriters who collects these visceral stories and conveys them so astutely that you’d think she had lived more than a dozen lives, hers is out September 29th on Fluff & Gravy Records.

Silver Torches is the project of Erik Walters, who plays guitar with Perfume Genius and David Bazan, and is a Springsteen meets PNW indie folk/americana record that I cannot get enough of – Courtney Marie Andrews, Greg Leisz and Noah Gundersen feature on it, his is out October 6th.

Another release on Fluff & Gravy Records, Portland songwriter Jeffrey Martin has been one of the Northwest’s best-kept secrets for far too long. His new album was made while he was off the road and working as a creative writing teacher in a small rural Oregon town. The stories of his students fed into his creative outlet, and the songs on his new album are both beautiful and heart-rending. A glimpse into the broken hearts of America’s rural families. Jeffrey’s album drops October 13.

We’re so excited to be working with Dori Freeman again on her sophomore album! It’ll be produced by Teddy Thompson again and released October 20. It’s a mix of Dori’s originals, though tempered with a slightly more positive outlook, plus some tastefully arranged traditional pieces. Dori’s voice is shockingly great, but hearing her sing true Appalachian music for the first time is a revelation. 

Another album in October (Oct 27) has been a long-time coming. It’s an unusual but very cool collaboration between old-school hip-hop head Mr. Lif and San Francisco-based Balkan brass band Brass Menazeri. If you’ve never heard hip-hop with brass before, you are in for a treat! It’s one of my favorite sounds (you’d be amazed at how well a tuba lays down the bass beats). 

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VIDEO.CHIP TAYLOR AND THE NEW UKRAINANS – F**K ALL THE PERFECT PEOPLE

Speaking bluntly, Chip Taylor fires off “Fuck All the Perfect People”, the title track from his album release with The New Ukrainians. Character is the theme for the video with passersby joining in to deliver the world view of Chip Taylor and the New Ukrainans.

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One from the past..Betty Elders – Daddy’s Coal

 

 

Daddy’s Coal ~ 1989
This gem was recorded in a South Austin garage with an old Peavey p.a. system, and originally relased on cassette!  Proof that true creative ability cannot be constrained by a lack of materials.  The essentials were in place—-great songs, great musicians, great ears (engineering, production)
The title cut, “Daddy’s Coal,” is timeless and startling in its profundity.  Betty’s and Hal’s (Ketchum) vocals soar effortlessly and majestically above a lyrical but sparse acoustic bed (Betty’s guitar, John Hagen’s cello), in the same way the symbolic eagle of her song soars “upon the wind”.  This song is as much a triumphant testimonial to a child’s love for parent as it is a memorial to innocence lost by an entire Viet Nam War generation. The memory of such loss is simply and tenderly expressed in both the title cut and the traditional, “A Drifter’s Prayer”  — perfect portrait of a loss of faith.   A soul with its tether cut.
Everyman’s song.
The prophetic “Jericho” expounds on the lack of virtue displayed by TV evangelism, and the anthemic “Pilgrim” close the too-short collection,  proving once again that one can indeed make much with little.
Note: the CD version contins a bonus gem: a raw living room recording of Betty and Gene’s living room performance of “Two Hearts Together, Three-Quarter Time.”
Very collectible. 
DADDY’s COAL ~ 1989
Produced and arranged by Betty Elders 1. Bed Of Roses/ Bed Of Thorns  3:31
2. Heartache  4:14
3. A Drifter’s Prayer  3:05
4. Daddy’s Coal  6:02
5. I  Never Think Of You At All  2:37
6. Jericho  3:14
7. Welcome Home Heart  3:22
8. Silver Wheels (#2)  3:22
9. Two Hearts Together, Three-Quarter Time  3:26
10. The Pilgrim  3:26

Players:

Betty: acoustic guitars, keyboards, harmony vocals
Gene Elders: 5-string violin
Scott Neubert: acoustic and electric lead guitars, dobro
Rick McRae: acoustic guitar on “Silver Wheels” and “Welcome Home Heart”
Gene Williams: acoustic guitar, electric bass on ” A Drifter’s Prayer”
Keith Carper: double bass
Roland Denney: string bass
John Hagen: cello on “Daddy’s Coal”
Rene Garcia: trombone on “Welcome Home Heart”
Hal Michael Ketchum: harmony vocal on “Daddy’s Coal”
Tommy Daniel, Bow Brannon, and Doug Floyd: harmony vocals on “A Drifter’s Prayer”

Recorded at: MARS (Mid-Austin Recording Studio),   AWOL Studio (Manor TX), and Songwriter Studio
Engineers: Charlie Hollis, Rick Ward, and Jess DeMaine
Mastered by Jerry Tubb at Terra Nova Digital Audio, Austin, TX
Cover concept and jacket photographs: Betty and her dad, Charlie Pruett, Jr.

Biography

She always knew she would be an artist. Her love of music, melody and words began longer ago than she can now remember. The relentless stirring of the mortal soul, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me…” left an indelible imprint on her music. That hymn, her first musical memory, would shape her future.
Born in Greensboro, North Carolina, of Scottish descent, Betty began playing piano at the age of Four, and by age six had already begun to compose melodies. She loved hymns. She loved the rhythm of poetry, especially the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost. By age ten, she had written several of her own. One, “Snow,” would be honored by the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, in 1961.
Betty studied ballet and taught herself to play guitar by listening to records. At fourteen she formed a folk trio with two girlfriends. Just Us, and they played at talent shows and cafes, displaying an eclectic musical repertoire and love of vocal harmonies. In the wake of the arrival of the Beatles and the sounds of the British invasion, Betty played drums for a year in an all-girl Beatles cover band. Soon more dynamic rhythms and melodies caught her ears, in the music of Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Jackie DeShannon, and James Brown.
Summers were spent at her aunt and uncle’s farm in Woodlawn, Virginia. There Betty added to her influences the lilting harmonies loved by her uncle; the memorable refrains of Ralph Staniey, The Clinch Mountain Boys and, of course, Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. Once again. her love of yearning melodies and harmonic voices was rekindled.
Later, the folk artists of the sixties and seventies expressed yearning with a social and political conscience, leading Betty in another direction. One of Betty’s “favorite first songs I ever learned to fingerpick on guitar” was Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” It will still occasionally surface on her set list, when homage is being paid to those influences which artfully combine great poetry with great music.
From birth until she recorded her first album of original songs, After the Curtain, in 1981, Betty Elders’ music had been shaped by all she beheld. In its diversity one may clearly see her love of that music which speaks to the soul’s struggles, its yearnings, from the early influence of church hymns to popular music, to an education in the brilliant blues of Gershwin’s melancholy, the vast expansive scores of Aaron Copeland and Ferde Grofe, and the exquisite marriage of rhythm and melody in the orchestrations of Maurice Jarre. Betty still claims Jarre’s score for the movie. “Thee Comancheros.” to be among her favorite film scores of all time.
Betty settled in Austin, Texas, in 1984. Her self-produced release Daddy’s Coal was issued on her own Whistling Pig Music label in 1989, and earned her several year-end awards from Austin’s Music City Texas Insider: Best Independent Tape, Song of the Year (shared by two of Betty’s songs), Best Female Vocalist and Best Female Songwriter. The release of Peaceful Existence, issued in 1993 on Whistling Pig, resulted in another round of awards from the Insider’s poll and the Austin Chronicle’s Music Poll. It also attracted a degree of critical acclaim truly unusual for a release on an artist’s own label. Reviews in Detroit’s Metro Times, Detroit Free Press, Austin Chronicle, Performing Songwriter, Richmond Times Dispatch Dirty Linen, Folk Roots and many other publications range in tone from laudatory to reverential. Dave Goodrich of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette named Peaceful Existence one of the five best releases of the decade.
She’s been a featured artist in six standing-room-only showcases in the internationally renowned South-by-Southwest Music and Media Conference 1989-1994. Meanwhile, she co-authored “He Never Got Enough Love” on Lucinda Williams’ critically acclaimed 1992 release, Sweet Old World.
Highlights of the 1994 season include her performance on National Public Radio’s “Mountain Stage program Jan. 9; a successful tour of the Northeastern U.S. in July; the release of Daddy’s Coal on CD; and her enthusiastically received performance on the Main Stage at the 1994 Kerrville Folk Festival. 

What Betty Elders Peers Are Saying

Betty’s songs and her sweet, haunting voice call forth the spirit of Appalachia combined with a keen vision and revealing honesty about what really matters. Betty is a favorite of mine and deserves to be heard!
Lucinda Williams

It is and has been to me for some time a source of amazement that an artist of Betty’s caliber has not been recognized yet on a national level. Maybe this will be the album that slaps some heads.
Iain Matthews

Her music will touch your soul. From deep inside the genuine person she is, Betty Elders’ songs speak through the pain and happiness of all the moments. Just simply being–and carrying on. I hope she always does.
Jimmy LaFave

 

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Sera Cahoone heads out on first full band tour in 5 years this fall!

Cahoone readies for first full-band tour in 5 years!

We’re very excited to announce that Sera Cahoone is heading out on tour this September! This past year has seen her touring with the likes of Tift Merrit, Son Volt and Gregory Alan Isakov but now she’s ready to strike out on with her full band in tow to support From Where I Started.

We had some wonderful press for the album including the NPR First Listen Stephen Thompson wrote up here and CBC’s First Play here. This fantastic interview on Uproxx, a glowing No Depression review, this piece on LGTBQNation referencing the interview Cahoone had with Jewly Hight for NPR’s Songs We LoveElle Magazine’s ’10 Best New Songs’ of March and a great American Songwriter piece. Beyond that Sera’s album received high praise from the Bluegrass Situation, Saving Country Music, Curve Magazine, KEXP, Paste, The Seattle Times, Seattle Magazine, Seattle Metropolitan, Seattle Weekly and a ton more.


 

The world of American roots music is no stranger to Seattle songwriter Sera Cahoone. Even though her last three albums were on Sub Pop Records and she spent years at the top of the indie charts, she’s always had a streak of Americana that ran through her music, a love of the humble folk song that bolstered her art. She’s returning now to these earliest influences with her new album, From Where I Started (to be released March 24, 2017). Growing up, Cahoone first found her voice in Colorado dive bars, backing up old blues musicians at age 12 on the drums. Her father, a Rocky Mountain dynamite salesman, took the family along to mining conferences and old honky-tonks in the state. The sounds she heard there—the twang of country crooners, cowboy boots on peanut shells—have stayed with her all the way to Seattle, where she lives now, and the seminal indie rock bands she’s been a part of in the city (Carissa’s Weird, Band of Horses).

To make From Where I Started, her first new album since 2012’s Dear Creek Canyon, Cahoone traveled south to Portland to work with producer John Askew (Neko Case, Laura Gibson, Alela Diane). Askew brought together key Portland musicians like Rob Berger (Iron and Wine, Lucinda Williams), Dave Depper (Death Cab For Cutie) and Annalisa Tornfelt (Black Prairie) with Cahoone’s Seattle bandmates – Jeff Fielder (Mark Lanegan, Amy Ray) and Jason Kardong (Son Volt, Jay Farrar). The band lays a deep bedrock beneath Cahoone’s songs, supporting her arcing vocals and innovative guitar and banjo playing. The album is driven by a strong rhythmic sensibility, owed to Cahoone’s background as a drummer for indie rock bands. “A lot of my songs start as a beat, I add guitar, then lyrics at the end,” she says. “When I write songs I usually sit at my drum kit playing both drums and guitar at the same time.”

From Where I Started plays on the rougher, darker edges of the traditional love song. Like any good country album, the songs here deal with love and loss, but Cahoone also knows how to surround loss with hope, to temper a sad song with a turn in the major key. The optimism of the love song “Up To Me,” buoyed by fingerpicked guitar and banjo, gives way to the weary resignation of “Taken Its Toll,” with its plaintive pedal steel and echoing vocal harmonies. “Ladybug,” is a poignant song that followed the tragic death of Cahoone’s cousin Tawnee.

From Where I Started represents a refocusing for Sera Cahoone. It positions her as a songwriter beholden to the old country sounds she grew up with, a songwriter who’s always been able to deftly translate a personal perspective into a universal view. It’s an album about falling in and out of love, finding new hope, and learning that the best way to move forward is to remember whereyou began.

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Edgelarks by Edgelarks: Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin release date

Edgelarks fly in on the tailwind of BBC award winning duo Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin. The new band name comes with anew project, taking the roots of their previous work – British traditional musics, Indian classical slide guitar, stomping roots beatbox harmonica party; adds a strong stem of original writing; and runs wilder with each gig.
definition: Edgelark (verb) – to sing about or from the margins 


This album is about transitional spaces. Liminal places, people and times, the straddling of boundaries and thresholds; crossroads and borderlands; travellers and refugees; dusk and dawn. The pause between an old way and a new. The idea that, despite often being places of marginalisation, these are also places of change – and therefore places of hope. That, when social norms break down, when you are between two established worlds, there is a chance for new perspectives. That in the end, we have far more in common than things that divide us, because we are all liminal – we are all standing on the threshold of tomorrow. We are all just passing through.
credits
releases October 6, 2017 
Hannah Martin – lead vocals, banjo, tenor guitar, fiddle, viola, shruti box 
Phillip Henry – vocals, Dobro, Weissenborn, Chatturangui, harmonica, acoustic and electric guitar, tenor guitar, electric lap steel, shruti box 
John Elliott – drums, percussion, piano, Moog synth, harmonium 
Lukas Drinkwater – electric bass, double bass 
Niall Robinson – tabla 
Recorded May 2017 at Cube Recording, Cornwall. 
Produced by Phillip Henry and John Elliott. 
Engineered, mixed and mastered by Gareth Young. 
Assistant engineer Matt Conybeare. 
All lyrics by Hannah Martin, all music by Martin / Henry, except What’s The Life of a Man? and Estren, trad. arr. Martin / Henry. 
Photography and sleeve design by Elly Lucas.

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Sarah Jane Scouten





“Drawing upon traditional melodies that almost biologically are instantly singable, but combining them with emotions, sentiments and stories that are relatable even now. Stan Rogers was able to do it, Ron Hynes was able to do it, Kate McGarrigle was able to do it –

and Sarah Jane Scouten is able to do it.”
– Tom Power, CBC q and Deep Roots
“A sterling example of the top grade Americana coming out of Canada.” – Folk Radio UK“Sarah Jane Scouten showcases a major talent and a whole lot of versatility on her third full-length album.”

– No Depression

 
 
“When the Bloom Falls From the Rose showcases [Scouten’s] agile voice, ruminative songwriting, and love for classic country, indie pop, and everything in between.”
– American Songwriter
 


One of the great pleasures of running a radio station are the emails from the artists thanking me for playing their music. I always reply that the pleasure is mine and it is I who should be saying thank you for the lovely music. The mail from Sarah was an exception in that I had to admit that I had fallen in love with her, well not her but her music.
Yes I think the album that good. I could write reams about it but most everything has been said in other reviews admirably well so other than repeat them I will keep it short and sweet,a wonderful choice of songs, variety is the spice of life. 
A voice that is sweet and sharp,music that is soft and shrill and lyrics to make you laugh and cry. Oh and a beautiful album cover.
 When the Bloom Falls From the Rose is and will be one of the top Americana albums of the anniversary year from Canada and the rest of North America too.

​So what do we know about Sarah,
At age 5, Sarah was sitting on the dining room table, singing “Lace and Pretty Flowers,” by Canadian country-folk musician, Willie P. Bennett. Hank Williams and Stan Rogers were her greatest inspirations, both a staple at Sunday morning pancake breakfast and afterward, while singing bluegrass and gospel music with her father on Bowen Island, BC. Her talent for performing came naturally, and as chance would have it, so emerged a knack for songwriting. Bringing us up to date, Sarah Jane Scouten is an internationally touring songwriter, loved by audiences across the Northern Hemisphere.
With flavours of Lucinda Williams, Nanci Griffiths and Iris Dement and a wealth of early country music, the two-time Canadian Folk Music Award nominee and recent Western Canadian Music Award nominee’s songs are faithful to a long-standing folk music tradition. Often spilling over into modern themes that are outspoken and edgy, her songwriting tackles issues from poverty and midwifery to tongue-in-cheek heartache songs and unabashed Canadiana. A traditionalist at heart, Sarah Jane Scouten shows her signature flair for the roots of roots music. With respect for these roots, she writes from her own perspective, playing with style to create her own distinct voice. This songwriter is known for hitting hard and close to home, then laughing it off. 

 

Sarah Jane was discovered by Vancouver label Light Organ Records when she was cold-called into the studio to make an EP with producer Andy Bishop as part of a series of releases, coined The Railtown Sessions. Her EP was volume one of the series, which recently garnered her a WCMA nomination for Roots Solo Artist of the Year, alongside Corb Lund. She has since teamed up with the label and will be releasing her third full-length album, When the Bloom Falls From the Rose, recorded in Toronto at Revolution Recording with veteran Canadian producer Andre Wahl (Hawksley Workman, Jill Barber), on June 16. The album includes ten original songs, ranging in style from classic honky tonk to indie-folk rock, and two virtually unknown traditional Western Canadian songs, discovered on crackly recordings in university archives and given new life through Scouten’s haunting arrangements. Developing a big, lush sound on the album, Scouten really comes into her own as a songwriter and performer, drawing from such modern approaches to country music as Sturgill Simpson and Emmylou Harris’ iconic album Wrecking Ball, produced by Daniel Lanois. If you think you have Sarah Jane Scouten figured out, you haven’t heard anything yet.

Social Media
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

 
 

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Offa Rex – The Queen Of Hearts

FROM FRUK,THANKS
‘I’ve just recorded an album with an American band,’ said Olivia Chaney, introducing a new song on her support slot for Shirley Collins at the Barbicanearlier this year. I remember hearing that remark and thinking it’ll be interesting to hear her in a band context with some transatlantic backing.
What I didn’t expect (although it would be entirely possible to work it out) was that she’d just recorded an album with The Decemberists. In case you don’t know, they are a very popular Grammy-nominated American indie rock band from Portland, Oregon. They’ve recorded seven acclaimed albums including 2011’s The King Is Dead – which reached No. 1 in the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.
 To give you an idea of the scale of the contrast, Olivia has just over 1,500 followers on Spotify, The Decemberists more than 275,000. Don’t take that as a criticism, in my book Chaney should have much, much more than that…
 Her debut album from 2015, The Longest River is a masterpiece, lauded by FRUK’s David Kidman as ‘eminently treasurable’, and receiving rave reviews in The Independent and The Guardian, alongside many others. So Chaney is definitely not an unequal partner here, albeit an emerging rather than an established artist.
 The collaboration came about when Decemberists’ singer, guitarist and lead songwriter Colin Meloy opened a conversation with Olivia on Twitter. Like anyone with ears to please, Colin was a fan of Olivia’s debut, and the tweet exchange led to a support slot for Chaney on The Decemberists’ tour. It was during a late night conversation that Colin suggested, “Have you ever thought of having a backing group? We’ll be your Albion Dance Band.” It turned out to be the king of offers…
 The fact that Meloy knew about No Roses by Shirley Collins and the Albion Dance Bandin the first place gives you an indication of his (and the band’s) deep love for British folk rock. And that he saw Chaney in the same mould as Collins demonstrates his appreciation of her as a major talent.
 The offer came good and so good. The resulting collaboration The Queen of Hearts is a towering, majestic work. It is effortlessly confident, an album that shifts from pleasure to pleasure – a consistent collection superbly arranged and played. Produced and recorded by Tucker Martine (Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Neko Case) alongside Colin Meloy, it is at turns a nostalgic nod to the great British folk-rock albums of the late 60s and 70s but equally assured in a fresh, contemporary way.
 The material is largely traditional, and much of it familiar to folk audiences. The Queen of Hearts, which opens the album, was learnt from Martin Carthy and versions have been recently recorded by The Unthanks and Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker. Willie o’Winsbury is about as familiar as it gets – only last year Jim Moray offered his own beguiling version, William of Barbary. So you might wonder if we need more interpretations of these trad songs. But they are sung so beautifully by Chaney, and The Decemberists bring fresh life to these age-old tales that familiarity is never an issue.
 And what’s great is that (hopefully) these songs will get a much wider airing and appreciation because of their inclusion here. And it’s not just ballads that get The Decemberists treatment, a set of Morris tunes, Constant Billy (Oddington) / I’ll Go Enlist (Sherborne), has been deftly arranged by The Decemberists’ accordionist Jenny Conlee. True to their word, they sound like Prospect Before Us-vintage Albion Band. It’s two minutes of absolute, unexpected bliss.
 The album is firmly in the rock end of folk often with electric guitar, drums, bass and hammond organ backing, augmented by harpsichord, accordion and violin. Sheepcrook and Black Dog positively rocks with fuzzy electric guitar a la Zeppelin’s No Quarter over which Chaney soars like Trembling Bell’s Lavinia Blackwell. Sheepcrook pushes the band into wyrd new realms, sounding like psychedelic folk legends The Trees.
The song segues into To Make You Stay making an eight-and-a-half minute psych-folk epic. Colin takes the lead vocals on this, the final track, a cover of the Lal Watersonmasterpiece from the album Bright Phoebus. And Colin is clearly having a blast singing this obscure but brilliant song. He also takes the lead on Blackleg Miner which owes much to the Steeley Span version but sounding much fresher and more upbeat here.
Another cover is a heart-stopping The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face sung by Chaney, which lays the ghost of the Roberta Flack-emoted version, with hints of the traditional Cruel Mother taking Ewan McColl’s standard back to its folk roots.
I really hope that this album is taken to heart by long-term folk fans on this side of the Atlantic because it’s nothing short of a love letter to the music and traditions we adore. The performances are passionate rather than studious, rawkus rather than reverential.
Joe Boyd, another American with a deep love for British folk (and a catalyst to the invention of British folk rock) is a fellow admirer of Chaney. ‘I’ve only heard Olivia a few times,’ says Joe. ‘But that’s enough to make me a fan.’
In his acclaimed account of his life in the music industry, White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s, Boyd writes, ‘Why does England hate its own folk music?… In England, the mere thought of a morris dance team or an unaccompanied ballad singer send most natives running for cover.’ It’s an attitude I’m sure FRUK readers and listeners are only too familiar with, although it’s unlikely to be a perspective we share!
Boyd later shares an anecdote about American blues legend Taj Mahal who came to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Radio 2 Folk Awards, positively lapping up a performance by The Watersons, The Copper Family and various folk royalty. The unaccompanied harmonies on the traditional Thousands or More so enthralled Taj that he rose to his feet and joined in the chorus. ‘…his grin testified to the pleasure that evening’s music gave him,’ writes Boyd. ‘Perhaps it’s easier for foreigners.’
That thought might explain the alchemy of Offa Rex. Chaney is undoubtedly one of the freshest and most exciting talents of the British folk scene, but teamed up with The Decemberists might just mean this music goes mainstream (please!). Anyone who’s seen or heard her knows that Chaney is cool, and I don’t believe that The Decemberists are on a mission to make British folk cool. I think they had no idea it wasn’t ‘cool’ in the first place.

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Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons with Phil Wiggins album drops July 28th





“A Black & Tan Ball” will be released in the U.S. on 28th July. This new album by the Seattle songsters features the playing and singing of harmonica master Phil Wiggins, whose storied career has included performances at the White House with his long-time musical partner, John Cephas as well as decades of teaching.

While most murder ballads seem to revolve around sadness and tragedy, this song takes its time savoring the various possibilities of the violent act. We’re excited to present this new single “Do You Call That A Buddy” over on American Blues Scene today.

There’s a duality to the music of Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons; the same duality that lies at the heart of the blues. It’s the dichotomy between the weight of history that hangs over black America and the lightness of these old folk songs, which are meant to uplift and charm, to trick away danger, to fool authority, to squeeze a person out of harm’s way, but also to assert a subtle sense of worth and dignity. These songs brought black Americans through the darkest years of our country’s history, and they have an unsettling amount of currency in today’s world, where saying that the blues is black music or even saying that the life of a black person matters are both controversial statements.

The music that renowned Seattle roots duo Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons are making on their new album, A Black & Tan Ball, is not just blues music. The better term is a new and important one: Black Americana. To make this music, they’ve recruited good friend and touring partner Phil Wiggins, an eclectic legend of American blues harmonica (who received an NEA National Heritage Fellowship this year). By pulling together the many threads of black American roots music, and demonstrating the underlying meanings behind the black experience in folk music, Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons are showing another side to Americana that can help expand the genre’s boundaries.

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Offa Rex – The Queen Of Hearts

FROM FRUK,THANKS
‘I’ve just recorded an album with an American band,’ said Olivia Chaney, introducing a new song on her support slot for Shirley Collins at the Barbicanearlier this year. I remember hearing that remark and thinking it’ll be interesting to hear her in a band context with some transatlantic backing.
What I didn’t expect (although it would be entirely possible to work it out) was that she’d just recorded an album with The Decemberists. In case you don’t know, they are a very popular Grammy-nominated American indie rock band from Portland, Oregon. They’ve recorded seven acclaimed albums including 2011’s The King Is Dead – which reached No. 1 in the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.
 To give you an idea of the scale of the contrast, Olivia has just over 1,500 followers on Spotify, The Decemberists more than 275,000. Don’t take that as a criticism, in my book Chaney should have much, much more than that…
 Her debut album from 2015, The Longest River is a masterpiece, lauded by FRUK’s David Kidman as ‘eminently treasurable’, and receiving rave reviews in The Independent and The Guardian, alongside many others. So Chaney is definitely not an unequal partner here, albeit an emerging rather than an established artist.
 The collaboration came about when Decemberists’ singer, guitarist and lead songwriter Colin Meloy opened a conversation with Olivia on Twitter. Like anyone with ears to please, Colin was a fan of Olivia’s debut, and the tweet exchange led to a support slot for Chaney on The Decemberists’ tour. It was during a late night conversation that Colin suggested, “Have you ever thought of having a backing group? We’ll be your Albion Dance Band.” It turned out to be the king of offers…
 The fact that Meloy knew about No Roses by Shirley Collins and the Albion Dance Bandin the first place gives you an indication of his (and the band’s) deep love for British folk rock. And that he saw Chaney in the same mould as Collins demonstrates his appreciation of her as a major talent.
 The offer came good and so good. The resulting collaboration The Queen of Hearts is a towering, majestic work. It is effortlessly confident, an album that shifts from pleasure to pleasure – a consistent collection superbly arranged and played. Produced and recorded by Tucker Martine (Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Neko Case) alongside Colin Meloy, it is at turns a nostalgic nod to the great British folk-rock albums of the late 60s and 70s but equally assured in a fresh, contemporary way.
 The material is largely traditional, and much of it familiar to folk audiences. The Queen of Hearts, which opens the album, was learnt from Martin Carthy and versions have been recently recorded by The Unthanks and Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker. Willie o’Winsbury is about as familiar as it gets – only last year Jim Moray offered his own beguiling version, William of Barbary. So you might wonder if we need more interpretations of these trad songs. But they are sung so beautifully by Chaney, and The Decemberists bring fresh life to these age-old tales that familiarity is never an issue.
 And what’s great is that (hopefully) these songs will get a much wider airing and appreciation because of their inclusion here. And it’s not just ballads that get The Decemberists treatment, a set of Morris tunes, Constant Billy (Oddington) / I’ll Go Enlist (Sherborne), has been deftly arranged by The Decemberists’ accordionist Jenny Conlee. True to their word, they sound like Prospect Before Us-vintage Albion Band. It’s two minutes of absolute, unexpected bliss.
 The album is firmly in the rock end of folk often with electric guitar, drums, bass and hammond organ backing, augmented by harpsichord, accordion and violin. Sheepcrook and Black Dog positively rocks with fuzzy electric guitar a la Zeppelin’s No Quarter over which Chaney soars like Trembling Bell’s Lavinia Blackwell. Sheepcrook pushes the band into wyrd new realms, sounding like psychedelic folk legends The Trees.
The song segues into To Make You Stay making an eight-and-a-half minute psych-folk epic. Colin takes the lead vocals on this, the final track, a cover of the Lal Watersonmasterpiece from the album Bright Phoebus. And Colin is clearly having a blast singing this obscure but brilliant song. He also takes the lead on Blackleg Miner which owes much to the Steeley Span version but sounding much fresher and more upbeat here.
Another cover is a heart-stopping The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face sung by Chaney, which lays the ghost of the Roberta Flack-emoted version, with hints of the traditional Cruel Mother taking Ewan McColl’s standard back to its folk roots.

I really hope that this album is taken to heart by long-term folk fans on this side of the Atlantic because it’s nothing short of a love letter to the music and traditions we adore. The performances are passionate rather than studious, rawkus rather than reverential.
Joe Boyd, another American with a deep love for British folk (and a catalyst to the invention of British folk rock) is a fellow admirer of Chaney. ‘I’ve only heard Olivia a few times,’ says Joe. ‘But that’s enough to make me a fan.’
In his acclaimed account of his life in the music industry, White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s, Boyd writes, ‘Why does England hate its own folk music?… In England, the mere thought of a morris dance team or an unaccompanied ballad singer send most natives running for cover.’ It’s an attitude I’m sure FRUK readers and listeners are only too familiar with, although it’s unlikely to be a perspective we share!
Boyd later shares an anecdote about American blues legend Taj Mahal who came to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Radio 2 Folk Awards, positively lapping up a performance by The Watersons, The Copper Family and various folk royalty. The unaccompanied harmonies on the traditional Thousands or More so enthralled Taj that he rose to his feet and joined in the chorus. ‘…his grin testified to the pleasure that evening’s music gave him,’ writes Boyd. ‘Perhaps it’s easier for foreigners.’
That thought might explain the alchemy of Offa Rex. Chaney is undoubtedly one of the freshest and most exciting talents of the British folk scene, but teamed up with The Decemberists might just mean this music goes mainstream (please!). Anyone who’s seen or heard her knows that Chaney is cool, and I don’t believe that The Decemberists are on a mission to make British folk cool. I think they had no idea it wasn’t ‘cool’ in the first place.

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